April 8, 2023

Help | Ajahn Brahm

Help | Ajahn Brahm

Buddhism can offer help in coping with the challenges of life, including illness and death. Sometimes we can help other people with our wisdom, with our Dharma. Sometimes in helping others, we take away their power and independence, which isn't alway...

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Buddhism can offer help in coping with the challenges of life, including illness and death. Sometimes we can help other people with our wisdom, with our Dharma. Sometimes in helping others, we take away their power and independence, which isn't always in their best interest. It's important to remember that when one helps others, they need to be act out of wisdom, out of love, and not out of fear. This talk is on principles of giving help, looking after, and serving other people, and it is part of being wise in our compassion. You can compassionately serve others in the world by giving them the means to be at peace. Sensitivity to the needs of the other person is a difficult quality to develop, but it is essential for creating a sense of community.


You can find the text transcription and other related information on the Ajahn Brahm Podcast website.

This dhamma talk was originally recorded using a low quality MP3 to save on file size (because internet connections were slow back then - remember dialup?) on 31st March 2003. It has now been remastered and published by the Everyday Dhamma Network, and will be of interest to his many fans. If you like the Ajahn Brahm Podcast, you may also like the Treasure Mountain Podcast and / or the Forest Path Podcast which are also produced by the Everyday Dhamma Network.

These talks by Ajahn Brahm have been recorded and made available for free distribution by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. You can support the Buddhist Society of Western Australia by pledging your support via their Patreon page.


AI Generated Transcription (expect errors)

There we go. Okay, now for this evening's talk after that beautiful meditation. It's so hard to actually give a talk after meditation because peace is just so nice. And sometimes even I don't like to disturb that peace by opening my mouth. But that's what you've come here for, so I better do my job. So this talk this evening, that, again, always off the cuff. Somebody was talking to me just before I came in here and asked a very good question who said that if there was like a 9th factor of the eightfold pass, maybe it should be like right compassion or right help. Right assistance, actually. How can we really help? How can we give assistance in this world? And what the pitfalls, the mistakes that mean when we try to help someone else? It turns out all wrong. And so this evening's talk is going to be woven around the topic of help. Assistance. Because whether one is a Buddhist, Christian, a Muslim or whatever, just if one is a human being, not even a human being, but any of the beings in the world, we actually always have this tendency to want to help, to want to care, to want to assist other people, especially when we perceive other people in trouble. And it's part of being a human being in a family, in a society, in a monastery, to have this inclination of the mind and the body to go out to serve, to help, to alleviate the perceived suffering in the world. And we feel this is our responsibility and a duty. And it is responsibility. It is our duty. It's part of being a human. But so often that when we go out there to help, to serve, too often it goes all wrong. And it just complicates matters more sometimes that we don't know how to help because there are some difficult people in this world who really need help or are suffering badly, and we wonder what we can do to make the matter better. And. So the talk this evening is on just some principles of giving help, looking after, serving those people, other people. But first of all, that where we have the idea of like, helping, which is part of the movement of our heart called compassion. We should always realize that compassion has to be accompanied with wisdom, because compassion without wisdom creates too many difficulties, too many problems. In this world, people can have a wonderful motive to help someone else, but we don't know what actually is help, what is service. Now, what is happiness. Then sometimes we go out there thinking we're giving someone happiness, but what we're giving them is more problems and difficulties. So we have to be wise if we're going to be effectively compassionate, if we really want to help in this world. So what do I actually mean by just being wise when we're compassionate? What I mean by being wise is not just to make too many assumptions of what people need in this world, not make too many assumptions of what is necessary for happiness in this world. I was talking to someone earlier today that I read an article about the Social Security system in England, in the UK. Where that? It seemed to be a requisite for life, an essential need of every human being. So much so that the Social Security departments in England would give this thing for free to every poor person who was out of work, who was somehow disadvantaged. Nothing was a TV and video recorder. As if this was something which is absolutely essential in life. And sometimes I would think that that's compassion, yes, but very little wisdom. What do you need one of those things for? Sometimes it was just an example of when we think we're helping but are we really helping at all? Are we really caring? Our wisdom should be very, very careful to be able to see what is truly needed for the other person, which takes a lot of listening. Not listening to ourselves, what we think the other person needs, but listening to the other person, the person who we think we're helping, not what we think they should have. But what they think they require. One of the seminal stories which I read many years ago in a magazine, which really made a very powerful point to me about the essential requirement of wisdom with any kind act, was a story of some parents who had a son who was born with an audio, with bad ears. They couldn't hear properly. In fact, they were just about 98% deaf or whatever, and the family, the parents would try and look after their son, look after their child as best they possibly could. And it happened one day that they took their child, their son, to their local doctor just to get a checkup. And during the checkup, the doctor started talking to the parents about a new procedure he had read in the medical journal which had just been developed, which had got quite exceptional success. Not in everybody, actually. Only a small percentage of people born with impairments to the ear. They said in the journal that 5% of people who had been born deaf could, to this simple procedure, regain their sense of hearing. And so the doctor suggested to the parents to consider trying this surgical procedure, and they discussed it together. There was only a one chance in 20. But no, what the heck, let's give it a chance. Give it a try. And so they gave this young boy this surgical procedure, and wouldn't you know your luck that he was one in 20 for whom it worked. He regained his ability to hear the first time since he was born. And as soon as he regained his hearing, he got very upset and angry at his parents and doctors because no one had asked him whether he wanted to hear an actual fact. He hated this terrible noise. He said it was such an affliction to him in those years when he'd been growing up without being able to hear anything. He developed a very great in sign language. And he could say he could appreciate the world much more sensitively with the gestures of his hand than any words could ever convey. He didn't want to hear and he was very upset and angry. They gave him the operation because he didn't know what they were talking about. He couldn't hear them. He was upset that no one asked him. When I read that story for the first time, I was shocked because I, like most other people, would assume that everybody wants to hear. Like people in England assume everybody wants to have a TV and video. We assume so much what other people need. And that is where the problem of help usually arises. Too much assuming, too much assumptions. Another example, which is very common in our country is sometimes people are driving along the side of the road in the rural areas of Australia and sometimes they come across like a kangaroo or wombat or some cute furry animal who's been hit by a car but who's not yet dead. And sometimes people say, oh, let's be kind. Let's be compassionate and put the poor animal out of its misery. And so they go and shoot that poor animal or hit it with a rock or whatever, to kill it. And they say, that's done out of compassion. I always say to such people, did you ever ask a kangaroo if it wanted to die? Shouldn't you at least be sensitive to what the animal wants, not what you think it needs? And you know, a lot of times, having lived in forests and jungles in my life, a lot of times I've seen animals who have been very badly wounded or injured or very sick. And very rarely do they want to die. Very rarely do they want to be put down, as we say, for killing them, for execution. Very rarely does that happen. And so, a lot of times you see animals in the forest, in the jungle, when they get sick, they just go and hide under a bush. They sit still to see what happens. But if you go near them, they're still very afraid that you might hurt them some more. The point is that the desire to live, the desire to be is so much stronger in most beings that they'd rather be in pain than die. And it's the same as human beings. Many people sometimes are in great pain, sometimes in great sickness. They go on and on and on for many, many months. But many, many people, they don't want to be put down. Sometimes you look at them and my goodness, they should be put down, you think. But you should ask them, first of all. Any much to say. We are with animals, so with helping, with compassionate, we should be very careful. And that's why that because most people who come here are Buddhists and because we got a precept not to kill. Some people come up and ask me what should I do when my cat or my dog is getting very old and very sick? Another vet says, we know that it's in great pain and great dist dress. They should take it to the vet and have it put down. What should I do? Because they are caught between compassion, which says that the animal is hurting, let's stop its hurt, and their presets, which say, you shouldn't kill. What should you do? And of course, this is an example of the whole idea of helping. And I told a person this evening, if that happens to your cat and dog or whatever other animal you've got in your house, your husband or something, you could ask them. First of all. Now ask your dog, do you want to be put down? And I mean this because people, they have pets in their house. They get very close to those animals. And there is a sense of communication possible between animals who stay in your house year after year. Don't say how that communication happened, but if you ask the question, you can know, you can feel, you can intuit what the animal wants. What you're doing is asking the animal how you can help it. And very often that animal will say, just leave me alone. Just look after me. But sometimes the animal will say and you'll see in the eyes, you'll feel it in your bones that the animals had enough. And then you could take it to the vet. You've asked the animal in the same way. This is an example about how you help other people. You have to be sensitive to what they need. And one of the big mistakes in helping others, assisting others, is, again, when we try to control another person's happiness. When we try and to take the responsibility away from them is one of the things which I learned as a monk, being sort of a counselor, being someone who serves others, is always to not only to find out what a person needs, but also be very careful not to take responsibility for them. What I mean is to take away their power, their independence. The whole idea of helping really should be to empower the other person, not to disempower them. By which I mean that you help another person take control over their situation. You don't take control of it for them. So you give them advice, you give them means to make a decision for themselves. What you're really doing is actually you're clearing the path of decision making. So it's quite easy for them to make a rational, clear, wise, compassionate decision. You're pointing out the pitfalls, for example, so often that people ask me about the decisions they have to make in life and sometimes they're very big decisions they have to make in in life. Sometimes people ask you like one person did today so they're very sick and advanced with cancer and they wish to commit assisted suicide. They've had enough and. And how can you actually help and serve a person like that? And of course, for many people and I was talking to this man about this recently, he goes and sees the doctors, he goes and sees friends and straight away they say he's depressed. Just making an assumption that a person who even contemplates suicide or euthanasia, depending which word you want to use for it, anyone who contemplates these things automatically must he be depressed? My goodness. As a Buddhist monk, I contemplate death almost every day. And I'm not depressed. Just because you mention death and think about death, people say you're depressed. You know why? Because of fear, afraid of taboo subjects. And this bring brings me to a teaching in Buddhism which I've always found very, very helpful when helping other people. It's called the four things you should consider to. When sort of giving advice. And those four things are to make sure that you're not acting out of desire, you're not acting out of fear, you're not acting out of stupidity, you're not acting out of ill will. Now, those four, the one which really stands out for me is not acting out of fear because so often in our life, when we meet each other, where we talk to each other now, where we help each other, there's so much fear involved in that. Fear of making mistakes, fear of it going wrong, fear of maybe doing something which no one has ever done before. So one should always check that the advice which one gives, the things which one do, does is not motivated by this terrible fear. Sometimes that fear is of what people will say about you afterwards. The fear of reproach, the fear of blame. And if you are going to help another person, you have to admit that sometimes there will be lame and not be afraid to stand your ground, to do what you think is right, no matter what people think about. You shouldn't be helping or not helping out of fear. I read in the newspaper today about some of the peace activists who are working hard trying to alleviate, if at all possible, a war in the Middle East. And they were quoting a very lovely adage of Mahatma Gandhi who said, whenever you protest about these things, whenever you stand your ground for a cause, say at first people ignore you. They think you're weird and strange. You're just one of the great unwashed, as they say in the newspapers, or you're part of renter crowd. So at first they ignore you, they said, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. It seems as if there's a whole way, there's a whole sort of series of actually what happens when you take a moral stand. People think you're nuts. And this is actually certainly what happens to me being a monk. First come over to the west, people thought I was really nuts. People thought you were crazy. People thought you were actually weird. They thought you was a sexual deviant, for one, being celibate, and number two, dressing like a girl because of our robes. This is what happens to you being a monk. Even just because of the strictness of our discipline, the strictness of our rules. Like the monk sitting next to me just he says nothing, and I have to do all the talking. The first year when I was in Perth, I was such a strict monk keeping all my rules. I was number two monk. There was another monk, ajen Jacob was the Abbott in those days, and he would do all the talking. He would give the talks and he would talk to people about their problems. And I would just sit there quietly, see if I could do any services for him. And I was so quiet and peaceful, I hardly said a word. And the first time that Ajan jacques went back to Thailand and I had to look after the shop and sort of now talk to people and give the Friday night talk. This is an old center in North Perth. There was a young girl, she must have been about twelve or 13 years of age. As soon as she heard me talking, her jaw dropped. She was astonished. And she came up to me afterwards and said, jen Brown, you can talk. So she she said, I thought you were mentally incompetent, because all the time I'd just been sitting so silent and peaceful. But I assure you, the monk sitting next to me is not mentally incompetent. He's just being a very good monk. But people had all these misinterpretations in those days, and sometimes it was amusing sort of being blamed. But even so, I had no fear of doing what I thought was right and keeping my rules and doing the job of a monk in the world and being dressed up like this. But what I was saying is that I was acting without these four things, which always stop you being an effective helper in this world. When you act out of fear and act out of desire, you act out of ill will or act out of stupidity. So if you're helping somebody, make sure that you're not acting out of fear. You're doing what you feel is right, because you've asked the other person. You've inquired, you've got wisdom and act fearlessly in this world. And number two, don't act out of personal desire what you're going to get out of this. Don't act out of ill will because you've got some axe to grind or some grudge. And certainly don't act out of stupidity where you haven't really assessed the situation and find out what is really needed in the world. And if one does that, then one can be an effective helper in this world. One can really assist, but especially that with the delusion. We don't really know how we can help in this world because we don't know what people need. Certainly in my early years in Thailand at that time, it was very much a third world country and we had all these volunteers from overseas, especially from the United States. We're going to the very poor parts of Thailand and that's where I was a monk trying to help the poor people by giving them things they never, ever needed. Very often somebody was asking me again this evening, said in those days, how did actually the local Thai people look upon these helpers from overseas who are sacrificing one or two years of their life trying to can help? And basically the locals actually did think these were crazy people from the west. They just sort of tolerated them just for the couple of years because they had to out of more like a sense of friendliness, a sense of respect. For many of the projects after the volunteers left were now completely abandoned because very often the volunteers came with a program which was devised a long distance away that have actually asked people what was actually needed, what was really wanted. And much of those societies was destroyed as a result. Some of the culture of those old villages, sure it was poor in money, but so rich in spirit and family. Sure, it didn't have any of the modern conveniences, but it had the old conveniences especially. It was rich in such things as time. He was rich in family, he was rich in relationships, he was rich in mutual support for one another. It was the old village cultures where people had time. It was fascinating to see just how those old village cultures worked when people got to know each other so well. If anyone was mentally disabled, there was no need for them to go into any home because they were accepted as part of the community, as part of the village. And I remember just the one girl who was mentally disabled and she was taken to every party, every event with her friends who'd always look after her, anyone who was an orphan, they'd always find some other person to look after them and care for them. The village was a hugely successful social support system and such villages, I found actually are still alive today, even in big cities, because I found the same Vidish support network once when I visited my mother in London and a big apartment block. This was a very poor apartment block which was supposed to be a hotbed of crime. Nevertheless, when I visited my mother in this big block of flats, the hundred flats, what would surprise me, and this is an important part of just how village is created, that there is only like two elevators, two lifts to go up and down. And it was very, very small elevators, a very cramped space. And so whenever my mother went to the shops or went to work or went out to wherever she went, she always had to go in this confined space with the other people who lived in this block of flats and going up as well. Even though English people are so known to be reserved, when you cramped together for so many minutes of the day, of each day, week after week, year after year, eventually even English people start talking to each other. And this is what my mother did and what they did to her. And because they talked to each other in this cramped space, they had to get to know each other, they got to be friends. And a support network started to develop. It was a village of people being in the same place for a long time, who got to know each other, and because of the human inclination to serve and help, created this beautiful sense of extended family throughout the whole of this tower block. Because I saw this once when I was staying with my mother and I went out to give a talk at the local Sri Lankan temple, which was in about a 45 minutes walk away. So I didn't need any lift, I just went there by myself. As soon as I got into the lift, which was empty, and got down to the ground floor, when the elevator doors opened in front of me, there was an old lady, maybe 60, 65 years of age, covered in blood. I found out quickly she'd fallen down the stairs and she looked a right state, a right mess, blood streaming all over the place, but she could stand. So immediately I forgot about going to give the talk, invited her back up into the lift and took her to my mother's flat and sat her down, called the ambulance, tried to mop up the wounds. Of course, like many accidents, it looks much, much worse than it ever is. Once you start mopping up the blood, you find that a little bit of blood goes a long way on a dress or a blouse. There's only a few cuts. But what was interesting and what actually showed just how a village had developed in a block of apartment flats of apartments in London, was that because of the trail of blood which led right into my mother's flat, we left the door open because we didn't think of closing it, but. And person after person came in, they said, we saw the blood. What's wrong? Can we help? We had about seven or eight people in my mother's flat all trying to help. Someone turned off her oven because she was cooking a meal. Someone rang her daughter, someone got her purse and it was lovely to see just how everybody came to help when there was something to do. Do you saw that there was a sense of community happening there. When people meet each other in a lift, in an office, in a Buddhist society or a church or whatever meet each other week after week, day after day, we get to know each other. We get to exchange addresses, telephone numbers and this is where that network of society, of community starts to grow. And this is where we have the means to help. We always have that inclination that wish to help. But then again, we have to know how. And that, again, takes this sensitivity. That sensitivity is a very, very difficult thing because if you ask another person, now, how can I help? What do you need? So often that people they don't give a straight answer. Just if I ask you, what do you want? You don't give a straight answer. But I'm just as bad because people ask me, what can I get you? I jump. I say nothing. It's very hard to help a monk who's given up worldly things. What can you give me? You can only wear what there's so many sets of robes. One set of robe lasts a couple of years. So you can't even get sometimes it gets your birth there. It gets like Christmas or something. And people want to give you a gift. What can I give you? Nothing. Give me a bit of peace. But at least that we can be sensitive to each other just on how we can help, how we can give, how we can serve. And that sensitivity takes this quality of mindful listening to the other person to be able to mind painfully listen. To the person we want to help means we have to suspend all of our ideas, suspend all of our thinking, so we can pick up fully, with all our senses, the needs of the other person. Even in a marriage, people actually the husband and wife, they want to help each other, but so often they just don't know how. They can't actually ask. They have to feel, they have to open their mind with all its senses so all the information can come in. So we don't listen to what the person says, we listen to what they mean. And it's two different things. There sometimes the word words don't convey the meaning. We got to listen underneath the words, the body language, the intonation, until we become so sensitive, so open that we can really understand the needs of the other person. So sometimes, you know that in offices or families, in communities, sometimes other people get really upset and angry at us. We want to solve the problem but we have to find out what is the underlying reason there. What does that person need? That's why that I found when monks get upset and angry, they do sometimes. Sometimes because they may be hurting, they may be physically sort of ill. And very often you find that when a person is pushed to the edge of their physical tolerance of pain or pushed to the edge of their stress levels, then, of course, that's very often when they get angry. So when they get angry at you or they sort of give you a very hard time, just so often, instead of listening to the words, we should listen to the meaning. Are they they really, really trying to hurt us or is it something else we can do to really help them and look after them? I was taught by adjunct never to listen to the questions but always listen to the person. So don't ask answer the question, but answer the person. And. And for where they're coming from, for what they're doing, what they mean inside. And that way so often you can respond to a person's jibes, to their to their words of abuse instead of with anger back. You can do it with kindness, with a sense of acceptance, with a sense of forgiveness, with a sense of love because you're on stand that that's what a person really needs. So often in world that some people, they don't know just how to talk to other people. They're afraid and they just say the most stupid of things. So we should give them that forgiveness, give them that space and give them a sense of acceptance. In life, sometimes you ask yourself what do you really need? What do you really want in life? What you want in life is what we can give to other people. And so this is actually where we find we know how to help other people. But just the help just in this world helping a person get by, helping a person have a feeling of self respect, a feeling that other people care about them that's only like half of helping in the world. It just actually gets by. Because even though we can help with ending this possibility of war I'm sure that another year or two's time there'll be another threat of war. Even if we help a person sort of get out of a sickness then they go and get sick again even though we sort of help a person out of hunger then they have other problems afterwards. Sometimes we have to understand just what real help is and what real help is. In Buddhism, what real compassion is is to lead a person into wisdom and into understanding of what real happiness truly is. Because all I've said so far have about like helping a person out of anger, helping a person out of pain, helping a person out of. Out of physical problems and sickness. Is that real help? After all, sometimes you help a person and in the end they die anyway. I was moved during the week when I read an article about a Thai girl who recalled her past life and that recollection of a past life. It was a past life as a Buddhist nun and and her recall was just very, very accurate. But the interesting part about this, her recall of a past life as a Buddhist nun had meant that in this life, when she was a secretary that she never wanted to get married, she was never interested in family, she was never interested in worldly things because she was saying, what's the point of all these attachments? They don't make you happy. She'd been there and done that and realized that at the end one would have to abandon everything. It was interesting. Her whole attitude to life had changed as a result of that memory of the past. I would say that she was a very wise woman because she knew something which gave her a different idea of what happiness truly is. And so when we really want to help somebody, then we should understand what real happiness is. Sometimes people criticize Buddhism in the world because other religions go around creating hospitals and orphanages and schools and hospices for the dying. Why don't the Buddhists do this? Because sometimes you think, is this the best way to help? Is it really the best way to serve? Sometimes it's just assumed that this is how we help, how we serve in the world. But is it truly the best way? And I've always been convinced that whether it's poverty or hunger or whether it's sickness in the body, the biggest problem of human beings, the greatest cause of pain and suffering is not anything out in that physical world, but is always in the world of the mind. It's the inner pain which I always feel is the greatest cause of unhappiness. And that inner pain is that which causes, like, people to get depressed, which people to sometimes commit suicide, which cause people to have these terrible sort of mental problems inside of them. It's that mental pain, that mental suffering. So that is the greatest part of pain in the world. A person can have a great disease. A person can have physical sickness. They can be in pain, they can be poor. But I've seen such people who have been radiantly happy. And I've also seen people who have been perfectly healthy and they've just been suffering so greatly inside of their mind, they can't start and laugh any longer and they end it in suicide. It really proves to me anyway, that the biggest pain, the biggest suffering in the world, the biggest lack of happiness is not found in the body. It's not found in homelessness, it's not found in hunger or sickness, is found inside the human heart, the suffering inside. And that is where we can really help. We can say like the old adage, you give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. You teach a person to fish and you feed them for the whole life and you keep them breaking their precepts. That's not a way to really help another person. You may feed their body, but you don't feed their heart. They lose compassion and a sense of care for the other beings in the world, but you feed a person wisdom. And then you give them happiness in their heart, even if they're hungry, even if they're sick, even if they die. That is the greatest gift you can give a person. That's why in Buddhism we have this term the greatest gift you can give is the gift of Dharma, the gift of truth, the gift of wisdom, the gift of understanding. Because that gift of truth and wisdom is what creates the understanding of happiness inside the human heart. We understand that happiness is independent of even hunger or being full. It's independent of physical sickness or health. That happiness is pendant of getting what you want or not getting it. There's another thing which we can help other people with, and that is with this wisdom, with this Dharma. So when we're helping people, we want to help a person, to learn how to be peaceful. Even if you are sick, even if things are going wrong, even if you are dying, that is the greatest way we can help, because, okay, we can heal a person, but they're going to get sick again. We can give a person money, but eventually they're not going to have enough. We can give a person a home and they want something more. We can give a person life and eventually they will die. You want to give some people something more. You want to give the means to be happy no matter what happens in this world. To give people the means to be happy if there is a war, or if there's not a war, if there's economic prosperity, or if there's economic recession, to be happy if your relationship works, or if it doesn't work, to give a happiness, to help a person to cope no matter what. And so the greatest help you can give is the gift of dharma. And so that's why, as a Buddhist monk, you give. I hope. I give anyway great service in the world. So you can really help a person cope with whatever you cope by telling a person to be able to let go, to teaching a person not to always control what is basically uncontrollable in this world. We may hope, we may pray that there's no war. Maybe some people want a war. We may hope and pray that our diseases sort of get healed and the cancer disappears, but sometimes it doesn't. We can hope for this, we can hope for that. But the main point is to learn how to be peaceful, to be able to let go and realize that there's another part to life other than the body. There's this beautiful thing which we call the mind, and that the happiness does not lie out there in the world, but the happiness lies right within oneself. It's there. It's always been there as long as one pays attention to it. So too often in our world, because we look for happiness, for relief, in getting what we want out there, in getting rid of things which create the external pain and suffering, we never really pay too much attention to what's happening inside. We find that through no such trainings in meditation, through such trainings in wisdom. This is amazing. Just. What we can deal with in peace and happiness, especially in the pain of sickness, in the discomfort of people dying. It's wonderful to see just how you can help a person not live, but to be able to die peacefully, to be able to die with a sense of freedom, because you give the wisdom of changing the attitudes in the mind. Like I was saying last week, that sometimes that we think that freedom lies with getting rid of the obstacles which stop our desires to be able to get what we want, whenever we want, thinking that's real freedom. Whereas the wisdom of Buddhism says that freedom is not the freedom of desires, but the freedom from desires. So that the desires in our heart get less and less and less until we're quite happy, no matter what happens. The freedom from desires not the freedom of desires. The freedom from desires is wanting less. The freedom of desires is wanting more. The freedom from desires is called contentment. The freedom of desires is called craving. Think about it. What do you need to be content? Certainly many years ago, as a child you can be content with such small things. Now sometimes we think we can only be content if we get this, if we get that. Sometimes people think they're content if they can only get on the retreat coming up next in a few weeks time. We could only be content if we get what we want. That's not contentment. The whole purpose of this teachings here is to understand that the real happiness, how we can really help people, is help people learn what contentment truly is. And to see that we don't need to pillage the earth to find happiness in life. We don't need to get the biggest house in Perth to be comfortable. We don't need the biggest car. We don't need the best relationship. You can find happiness so easily where we know the contentment which signifies the freedom from desires. We can even can find freedom from the pains in our body. When we are content with those pains. When we accept them and embrace them rather than always trying to get rid of them. There will always come a time in our life when we can't get rid of pain anymore. There'll come a time in our life when we can't get rid of the disturbance and trouble in the world. It's like years ago someone came to complain to Ajan Cha. They'd been in the army and they got shot in a battle and they came to complain about their bad luck. And all Ajan Cha would say was what do you expect if you join an army? You expect to be shot, don't you? That's what happens in an army. We didn't want to be shot. You shouldn't have joined in the first place. He said, what happens being born? What happens being born is you're going to get sick, you're going to die. I eventually sometimes people complain to me about their marriage, their husband, their wife. What do you expect when you get married? It. You all seen the movies and seen the TV long enough. You should know what you're in for when you get married. So why should you come to me and complain? So this is life. You've got born, so this is what you can expect. So when you know what you can expect then if something changes, you become content with things. So much of the suffering is trying to blame somebody. It shouldn't be this way. It should be something different. We complain about politicians. My God, who voted them in? You did. So it's your fault. It's not my fault as a monk because monks don't vote. So this is what we get. So in the end, instead of complaining all the time and complaining about our husband complaining about our wife, complaining about our kids how many times do parents come up to me to complain about their children? It's very easy to counsel people when they complain about their children. All you do is say, what did you do when you were that age? And they say, Well, I did this, but don't tell my kids. So look. Now, when we gain sort of the knowledge of what we call the way things are, when we know sort of the rules of life, the Dharma, just what we can expect, whether it's in wards, whether it's in economies whether it's in sickness and health, whether in relationships, having children or whatever that wisdom of facing up to truth leads to a sense of acceptance and contentment. So this is the way that marriages are, this is the way that people are. This is the way I am, this is the way the bodies are, this is the way the sickness is, this is the way the old age is, this is the way that death is. What do you expect? Instead of saying, Why me? You say, Why not? Instead of fighting a battle you can never win, then you let go and accept that which you could do nothing about. And this is actually how we learn the contentment. Learn wisdom. Where we understand contentment, we understand wisdom, then we can truly help in this world. We can truly serve because we know how to give the greatest happiness to others. So if you're really serving, you can go out there and serve and try and as a nurse or a doctor in a hospice, trying to make people well. But don't just serve their body, serve their heart, serve their mind. See, I can give contentment peace, what we call like love in this world, love is an embracing, a contentment and acceptance. That's what true compassion is. So this is actually how we can not just compassionately tell somebody what to do or help them externally. We can give them the means to really be at peace. No matter what happens in life. It's not just giving a person a fish so they can get a meal for the day. It's not even teaching people how to fish, it teaching a person how to be at peace, how to be happy, the great secrets, no matter what. So that, I always think, is the way we can help, that we can serve in the world. So, compassionate service, we can go out in the world and serve in all these different ways. But the best service we can give, whether as a bus driver or as a monk, whether, say, a student or whether as an office worker, is whatever duties we do in the world, whatever service we give outside, make sure that we also give this service inside to the people we work with. To show them compassion, to show them peace, to show them contentment, to show them how we can live a life. No matter what's happening outside, we can always be at peace, to be kind. What we're doing is not just being kind to people, but being kind to life, being compassionate to old age, sickness and death, being accepting, being at peace when there's nothing else we can do. So this is a little talk this evening on how to be compassionate, how to serve in the world. It must be quite successful, some of the talks which I give, because I'm going to end this talk with a nice accolade which I got on the internet just a few days ago when somebody in Canada was talking about just how they appreciated all the talks which we give here. And they called me the Elvis of Buddhism. I've been called many things in my life, but that I thought was quite cute. I hope they meant it in a nice way. So this is actually how you can serve in the world and how you can help other people. And if you can serve and help in that level of the human heart, there may be one day that people will call you the Elvis of your office or the Elvis of your house. So thank you very much for listening this evening.